Church of Beethoven salutes Val’s halla



Church of Beethoven salutes Val

Worked for many years at Flying Fish Folk Records. We had a record distributor who would show up in an old pickup and load up the milk crates with LPs. He was always talking about Val’s Halla in Oak Park. When I finally moved here, 15 years later, there it was — still selling milk-crate sized musical goodness! Val’s tales at the Lake Theater’s 25th Anniversary of the Blues Brothers movie were amazing. Now she graciously helps emcee Church of Beethoven at Open Door. What an amazing treasure.

Jean Lotus, 47, Co-Director, Church of Beethoven-Oak Park

Memories of Val’s halla: Sacrificing lunch money for Vinyl

It started out innocently enough… Beach Boys 8-track tapes and 45s from Ben Franklins, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to concentrate on the great format of 331/3 rpm records.   Ben Franklins had it’s charms, but not the focus of a real, independent record store.   My Freshman year of High School was all the horrors of the movies and TV shows we’ve seen for years and it became obvious the lunch room was no place for me.   So, if I wasn’t hiding in the library I was roaming outside the school grounds during my lunchtime.  It was on one of these  walks I discovered Val’s Halla on South Blvd.  One great thing about starting high school at OPRF was since I lived by Concordia College in RF,  I was given money to ride the bus and buy lunch.   Tho I’d never stepped on a school bus, my instincts told me it’d be every bit as bad as the lunchroom.   Of course, as I started bringing home records weekly – at Val’s I could get a used LP for $2.14 tax included – my folks figured out I was neither buying lunch or riding the bus.  After they argued whether I should still be given any money, my Dad thought I shouldn’t but my Mom stated that I was learning the value of money by sacrificing something to gain something of more importance to me, it was decided their youngest could develop much worst habits and I was allowed my vinyl stipend.   There after I spent two to five lunch breaks a week in Val’s Halla for four years running.  I bought my first  Bob Dylan LP there, my first copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, my first copies of The Beatles Revolver and The White Album (yes, I now own many copies of both) and so many more.


Val's halla, safe haven

Perhaps as great as the music I took home was the safe haven Val’s gave me.  I may have been an outcast, scared and leery in the school hallways, always an easy mark for those in need of a chump to take their frustrations out on, but Val’s was my home turf.  I loved music.  I knew vinyl.  I had home field advantage and no one ever dared to mess with me there.   Unlike most male dominated record stores of the era, this one felt extra safe as a female run enterprise.   I can’t thank Val Calimetti or her staff enough for that.   I know the Oak Park Arts District is not the hub of activity North Blvd. & Oak Park Ave. were, after all I’ve had a gallery space there for ten years, but I am so grateful Val’s Halla has made it to the 40th anniversary mark.  In this scary, crazy world I know there is a safe place for me.  May every awkward, unhappy, adolescence find their Halla.

Liz Gaylord

A Toast to Val’s halla – Happy 40th!

I don’t have any long history with Val, but I am happy to add my admiration and congratulations, too! Just a few months ago, actually, I was in there asking her about some particular dance rhythm.  How can some novice like me today understand the popular dance rhythms of the early rock-n-roll era…  She told me some fabulous history of her parents dancing on a bistro tabletop.  “They just knew” what dance it was.  “You could feel it and hear it.  Not like today.”  Righty-o, Val.  Right you are, like usual!
LOVE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fantastic asset to the Arts District.  We are so lucky to have her depth of knowledge, passion, and bright ideas!
Hope all the Val-a-palooza goes great (I’ll be out of town, alas).

Memories of Val’s halla: Jeff Elbel of Ping

Val’s Halla is the spiritual home for this unrepentant vinyl junkie. Personal highlights from the last year include finding old favorites by the Del Fuegos, Kinks and Thomas Dolby, which were subsequently signed by the artists. The covers are framed and hanging on my wall, while the discs spin on my turntable. Val and Shane have also welcomed my band Ping and hosted our CD release parties. I love the people and the place! Happy 40th anniversary and many happy returns!


Join us at hallaPalooza to celebrate Val’s halla’s birthday! Weekend of July 28-29 in the Oak Park Arts District. Cool bands and refreshments at the 40 year old music mecca…

Koan # 10. Winter Meadow, A Place to Grieve

For me, the natural world is a place of healing & freedom. It is messy, ever changing, and holds so many spiritual lessons. I run to the woods when I’m sad…I hike through the woods when I’m excited to be alive.

Recently, our Lola Mading (Grandmother Mading) crossed-over to the Other Side. She was 94 years old and is very much missed. This prose-poem/koan rose up inside me on one of my morning tromps through my local woods near the DesPlaines River in Illinois.


Lola is dead.

Snowflakes float, drift, gently fall

onto the bare, white meadow

where bootprints, ski tracks,

deer hooves, dog paws

make trails of gray spots

across frozen ground.

What signs of ourselves do we leave behind?

Lola Mading sang with her barkada,

in pointed straw hats,

a posse’s hymn of planting rice,

blazing suns, and stooped backs,

they who never relished snow.

I let memories of her wash over me

as my boots crunched ice.

Snow kisses the ground,

a hush, a silence,

shrouding runners’ footprints.

Soon, all will be covered —

and can we say we really lived?

My lola, grandma glittering

in gold and black gowns,

cheap fabrics richly sown

by her own gnarled hands.

The footprints she leaves behind

cannot be seen.

They show a woman,

two steps to the left,

a front hop,

skip, wiggle, groove

shaking at her Senior Prom

to make tracks as fast as she can.

Snowflakes glitter,

crystalline white and blue rainbows,

across the expanse of the meadow.

White-tailed deer, chocolate Labrador,

Cooper’s hawk, Filipina American woman,

Snow will cover all of our tracks one day,

making room for new life

each change of season.


No Lights but our Own

The storm brought everyone outside: neighbors checking on each other, comparing notes, tsk-ing, and wondering at the downed trees, the debris-strewn street. I managed to sneak a post yesterday before ComEd shut everything down so they could address live wires and blown transformers. (Photos in yesterday’s post.)

ABC News reported that there were 215,000 Chicagoans without power this morning. I’ll tell you how we spent our evening. We’re one of the suburbs just west of Chicago. It was a very quiet night. With no electricity, there wasn’t the hum of the fridge or the roar of central air. I came inside and my husband had lit all the candles and wall sconces he could find in our teeny brick bungalow. It struck me…I’m so used to the noises inside my house — the whir of the laptops — it’s sort of a relief to hear the quiet in our home.

I pulled our boy outside with his harp thinking that our neighborhood might enjoy a little home-made music. So he sat in his jammies jammin on his harp. *lol* Our awesome next-door-neighbors came over and B. played his silver trumpet. A duet of trumpet and harp, two boys adding peace to the ragged edges of the storm. They played a little “Paruparong Bukid” (Filipino folk song), “Star Wars”, “A Whole New World”, and did a sweet duet of “Twinkle-twinkle Little Star”.

It was nice to hang out with our neighbors on our front stoop, enjoying our boys, and their music. Don’t get me wrong. I did worry about whether the lack of our sump-pump would flood our basement or if the food in the fridge would all go bad and whether the the temperatures would soar the next day leaving us trapped in an pressure-cooker of a house.

But the aftermath of the storm brought its pleasures, too. The quiet of the night. The boys’ music. Conversation with neighbors. A certain relaxed pace. I fell asleep to the voices of the men next door trying to figure out if they could get the garage door up and working.

Best line I heard yesterday, hands down, came from two boys cruising our hood on foot to take in the devastation:

Boy #1: “Whoooaaa! Look at that!” (He points to our neighbor’s house engulfed in tree limbs.)

Boy #2: “Told you. It’s better’n’cable!”

See what can happen when we’re unplugged?


Chicago Storm – Aftermath

At around 4:20 p.m., we ran to our van. A storm was breaking and the crowns of the 50 – 100′ trees in our town began to dance. Branches broke off, leaves flew through the air, and rain drummed the van roof. Streetlights at major intersections had lost power. It takes us 10 minutes to get home during which time our 9-year-old kept asking us, “Is it a tornado?” Thankfully, it was not.

But it was one mean storm. When we arrived home, ten minutes later, here is what we saw:

Two major trees fell on our street

Transformer knocked out by a fallen branch

A branch shatters our neighbor's window

This used to be a streetlamp - top knocked off

Our neighbor's house engulfed by a fallen tree

On our street, everyone is okay. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of nature’s power can unleash. One neighbor had heard that the winds downtown were going at 75 m.p.h. Some saw the transformer spark and explode in our alley. The power is out for several blocks around us — but not in our house or the one next door. (So I have to post this fast before ComEd closes the lines completely to get them back up.) Another friend down the street saw branches flying through the air and heard the sound of trees ripping in half. (Poor trees!)

The beautiful thing is that everyone came outside to check on each other. I love the Midwest for its neighborliness and kindness. It’s good to see that everyone is okay. There’s a bulldozer outside, and police lines & officers guarding to keep people away from the live wires. That’s it for now…hoping everyone is home and cozy…


My boy was worried about “our babies”, the seedlings in the veg garden. Gotta love it. Yes, the “babies” are okay. I checked.

9 for Nature

I want to encourage anyone who reads this post to go outside for at least 9 minutes. Take a break. Touch some tree bark. Take your shoes off and wiggle your toes in the grass or the sand or even into some loamy soil.

It’s been a full & sometimes hectic 2 weeks since my boy has been out of school. I haven’t had as much time to just melt into nature as usual…so the last couple of weeks have felt off-balance. This morning, I went for a bike ride and stopped off at this small park in the northwest corner of town. There’s a beautiful, quiet strand of oak, maple, and elm trees that tower some 60 feet in the air. It isn’t huge, but when you need oxygen, it’s enough. Sunshine streamed through the trees. The balmy summer air kissed my skin.

My head has been full of travel plans, essays, articles, political rants about Sarah Palin, questions about feminism and motherhood, grief over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the transitions of dear friends moving, the excitement of weddings and births…the fullness and busyness of life. But, at some point, the thinking has to stop and the connecting with the deeper cosmos has to begin. Our bodies are lightning rods for experience.

So, 9 minutes for nature. (And if the experience goes longer than 9 minutes…? Awesome.) Try this:

1. Open the window, a door. Feel the sunshine on your face.

2. Listen for a bird. Who is it? How do they sound? Can you whistle that? Will they whistle back?

3. Touch a summer leaf. Feel the veins, the edges.

4. Rub the leaves of a tomato plant. Smell the sharp scent on your fingers.

5. Lie down on the grass, rest your weight upon the earth.

6. Go surfing. (This one’s for you, Sis.)

7. Sit on a park bench. Be still. Feel the world swirl past you. Be still. Hear the silence beneath the noise. *Breathe*

8. Take a walk around the block. Notice flower boxes. Notice gardens in your neighborhood.

9. Look up. At the sky. At clouds. At the moon that lingers in the morning. At the sparrows or sea gulls or hawks or June bugs. Feel the air thrumming with life.

Nature calls…even in small doses…


Great Blue Heron, a riverside glimpse

Have you ever noticed

the way the Great Blue Heron

stands tall when she hunts, head snaking,

spindle-legs plunk silently?

But when she spots

the silver darting fish,

she crouches low,

a ball of feathers,

an arrow focused on one intent —-> B R E A K F A S T !



Debt of Gratitude, Utang na Loob

What if the land did not belong to us? And we could not own it? What if we belonged to the land? In my family, we have this idea, a Filipino tradition, a value and a feeling: utang na loob. It’s been translated as a “debt of gratitude”. It is profound, inescapable, and there is no way to pay it back. It is also beautiful…because it binds people together. What if we felt this way about the land we live upon? The soil that provides nutrients, the seedlings which sprout from it, the vegetables and fruits who blossom and nourish us?

Even though I have a great love of nature, I don’t think I fully live this sense of utang na loob, this debt of gratitude, towards the Earth. Of course, this way of thinking, of being is not new. Sixteenth-century Filipinos did not “own” land, the land that the diwata, the nature gods and goddesses dwelled in, was sacred. It could not be owned by human beings. Nature was the temple of the Divine. We did, however, ask for permission to use it. To cut down trees, to plant fields…it was cultural ecology. It was ancient conservation before there was a need for the term.

I ponder my gratitude as many of the seeds we planted at the end of May have sprouted! Joy and delight! I wish I knew planting songs so that I could sing them with friends. It’s gorgeous to see fertility emerging.

New babies, cucumber seedlings!

My boy and I come out in the mornings to check on the lupa, the soil. We look at the patch and ask, “How are our babies doing?” And there’s always something new. To the left are cucumber seedlings. I love the smooth leaves and the fresh green, so tender.

To the right are tomato blossoms. TOMATO BLOSSOMS! In the market, at best I’ll see ripened tomatoes strung together on their vine. But to see the blossoms is a beautiful thing for a novice like me. The organic vegetable patch has become a sanctuary of sorts — yes, weeds and all (for another post).

See the pale, cheery yellow? Delicious summer color. 🙂